Barely minutes after Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto presented his proposed energy reform plan, which addresses oil giant Petróleos Mexicanos's (Pemex) deep state of crisis, political parties and the media alike voiced their thoughts about what this might mean for the company and Mexico's oil industry. Truth be told, most were far from pretty.
Peña Nieto’s proposal had been much anticipated in the last couple of months after word got out that the government was planning a constitutional reform to open Pemex to private investment. As it turned out, the reform effort was less controversial than expected. The president made assurances that Pemex will remain state-owned, but he said that the company would be open to partnerships that could help the deeply indebted company reach its full potential again. However, in order for that to be possible, articles 27 and 28 of the Mexican Constitution would have to be rewritten.
Jesús Zambrano, leader of the left-wing Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), said that no matter how much Peña Nieto insisted, the reform looked like privatization in disguise. “If they are saying that they don’t want to hand over Pemex to private investors, then why change the Constitution,” said Zambrano.
The PRD leader said his party will present a proposal later this week that will not affect the Constitution. Marcelo Ebrard, a former mayor of Mexico City and one of the most vocal opponents of the energy reform, tweeted that “Zambrano should ask for a plebiscite for an energy counter-reform.”
If the opposition thinks Peña Nieto went too far, his friends think he didn't. The Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), an ally of Peña Nieto’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), called the proposal “timid.” Leader Gustavo Madero said in an interview with Mexico’s Radio Fórmula that all the proposal did was “rely on secondary laws, instead of the Constitution -- that’s where the strength of the reform should lie.”
“What they should do is to open Pemex to the competition, turn it from a monopoly to a market leader para-state company, such as Brazil’s Petrobras or Colombia’s Ecopetrol,” Madero said.
PAN presented its own proposal days ago, and though its plan shares many points with the government’s. The PAN proposal recommends a full-on Constitutional reform that would open Pemex to private investment through agreements of partnership. Peña Nieto’s reform only contemplates contracts for specific exploitations.
Pemex’s workers, who have been protesting over the proposal since June, received the presentation with caution. Union leader Carlos Romero sided with Peña Nieto’s plans, but he asked for the full proposal to be disclosed. “What is good for Mexico, is good for all of us,” he said to Mexican newspaper El Occidental.
The most extreme reaction was that of former Presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador from left-wing Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (Morena), who published on his party’s website a video in which he says that the government is lying about Pemex being in crisis, and that it would be “a betrayal to the country, and Peña Nieto should be considered a traitor.”
López Obrador has called for a national protest on Sept. 10 in Mexico City, saying that the country “must stay together to stop the robbery of the century.”